Lot 59
  • 59

Ellsworth Kelly

400,000 - 600,000 USD
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  • Ellsworth Kelly
  • Green Panel (Ground Zero)
  • incised with the artist's signature, titled, dated 2011 and numbered EK1022 AC II on the reverse
  • painted aluminum
  • 22 1/4 x 49 1/2 in. 56.5 X 125.8 cm.
  • Executed in 2011, this work is AC II from an edition of three with two artist's copies.


Donated by the artist


This work is in excellent condition. Under ultraviolet light there are no apparent restorations. The work is not framed.
In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective qualified opinion.

Catalogue Note

One of the most important practitioners of American abstraction, Ellsworth Kelly has maintained a prolific practice that ranges fluidly across painting, sculpture, drawing, and printmaking. Eluding easy categorization as Color Field, Minimalist, or hard edge (though he influenced each of these movements), his work, Kelly says, has always been “about vision, the process of seeing” (Ellsworth Kelly in Mark Rosenthal, ed., Artists at Gemini G.E.L., New York, 1993, p. 73). In Paris on the GI Bill from 1948–54, the artist absorbed its Modernist art, met such figures as Brancusi, Picabia, and Tauber-Arp, and reflected on the visual patterns and relationships he discovered in the city’s built and natural environment—architecture, plants, shadows on the river. The abstract forms, contoured shapes, and vibrant contrasts of saturated, pure color that subsequently informed his meticulously executed paintings, sculptures, and prints have grown out of such real-world visual experiences, which are then offered up to the viewer, as he wrote in a letter to John Cage, to “meet the eye—direct” (Exh. Cat., New York, Guggenheim Museum, Ellsworth Kelly: A Retrospective, 1996, p. 11).
A number of periods of Kelly’s painting are represented in the Whitney’s permanent collection: the early red and white La Combe I (1950), based on chance operations with which he was experimenting in Paris; two black and white works from the early New York period, Painting in Five Panels (1955) and Atlantic (1956), the latter featured in the museum’s exhibition Young America 1957; three canvases from the 1960s in bold, flat primary colors, Red, White and Blue (1961), Blue Green Red (1964), and Yellow White (1966); the planar Blue Panel I (1977); and the recent Yellow on Blue (2001). Three sculptures, in painted aluminum or Cor-ten steel dating from 1963 to 2011, six drawings, and twenty-two prints complete the collection. An important exhibition of Kelly’s sculpture was organized by the museum in 1982, and his work has been featured in twenty-nine Whitney exhibitions, beginning in 1957 and continuing through the 2011 Biennial.
The painted aluminum wall sculpture Green Panel (Ground Zero), from 2011, embraces all the hallmarks of Kelly’s artistic enterprise, not only for its vibrant expanse of pure, flat green and its planar form, but for the remarkable “process of seeing” from which it derives. Shortly before the second anniversary of the World Trade Center attacks, Herbert Muschamp, architecture critic for the New York Times, received an unannounced package, along with a letter of explanation. It was from Kelly, in response to a recent article the writer had published on the controversy surrounding plans for rebuilding Ground Zero. Kelly’s idea for the site had been “a large green mound of grass,” and after seeing an aerial photograph of the site on the front page of the Arts and Leisure section, he was inspired to send a collage of his idea: a green paper trapezoidal shape fitted into the newsprint image of the site—a proposal for a “visual experience” as the most fitting monument to the tragedy. That collage, now in the Whitney’s permanent collection, is the visual experience from which this abstract sculpture was conceived.